It’s a given that the most urgent and important actions are rarely easy. Take the case of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who spent almost five years as a prisoner of war in Afghanistan before an intricately plotted and choreographed release took place on Saturday.
There was behind-the-scenes drama in this on-again, off-again operation, which had been in the works reportedly since 2010.
There was moral ambiguity, given significant evidence that Bergdahl had walked away from his unit, dissatisfied with the war and considered by some of his fellow combatants as a deserter who caused others to die in his wake. And there was even more ambiguity and debate fodder, given that his Afghani Taliban captors traded Bergdahl for the release of five longtime prisoners at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo.
Which — no getting around it — set off political hot buttons among the Obama administration’s sharpest critics. Their weekend talk-show blasts sounded as if a pinball machine were clicking and clanging all the way towards a “TILT.”
Republicans didn’t like this one bit.
Yes, we don’t know everything yet and Obama has some explaining to do: Why, for instance, did the administration leave Congress in the dark? And how confident are we that the five Taliban prisoners will be adequately monitored and restrained during their year in Qatar?
But the GOP complaints seem more like theater than substance. Really, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, we should’ve sent in a military force to extract Bergdahl and put even more soldiers into harm’s way?
There are upsides in this episode, and on balance they outweigh the negatives. An American POW is on his way home, and the full story of the Bergdahl enigma will eventually be known. Also, contrary to Republican fears of Taliban blowback, there could be long-term positive consequences for U.S. relations as Afghanistan lumbers toward its difficult future on its own.